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January 17, 2020

Weekend reads: How a popcorn kernel might've led to endocarditis

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    How this man went from having popcorn stuck in his teeth to having open-heart surgery. In late September, Adam Martin was eating popcorn when a kernel got stuck in his gums and teeth. The popcorn irritated him for three days, but despite constantly picking at it, Martin couldn't get it out, so he ignored it. Weeks later, Martin started having night sweats and fatigue, so went to see a doctor, who discovered he had a heart murmur and blood tests showed signs of inflammation. Martin's symptoms continued despite taking medication, and soon he developed a Janeway lesion on his toe. He then noticed he was sleeping more than normal and felt pain in his legs. He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the heart's lining. Doctors asked Martin what might have triggered the infection, but the only thing Martin could think of was his constant picking at the piece of popcorn. Doctors conducted a five-hour operation on Martin to remove an infected blood clot in his leg and later, on Oct. 21, performed open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve, fix his mitral valve, and treat an abscess.

    Drinking tea may be good for your heart. Drinking tea might reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. For the study, Chinese researchers analyzed data from a continuing health study in 15 provinces that began in 1998. The data included information on 100,109 adults, including reports of tea consumption. After an average of seven years of follow-up, the researchers found that people who drank more than three cups of tea a week saw a 20% reduced risk of a cardiovascular incident, a 22% reduced risk of cardiovascular death, and a 15% reduced risk of all-cause premature death than those who drank fewer than three cups of tea a week.

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    100-year-old lung reveals measles might be older than we originally thought. In 2018, Sébastien Calvignac-Spencer, a virologist at the Robert Koch Institute, headed to the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité to look at the preserved lungs. Calvignac-Spencer found one lung from 1912 that had belonged to a girl who died from pneumonia after a measles infection. Calvignac-Spencer's team has sequenced the virus in the girl's lungs and found that it is the oldest measles genome ever sequenced. And after comparing the measles virus from the 1900s with modern strains of the virus, the team found that measles could have emerged in humans as early as 400 B.C., which is 1,500 years earlier than scientists previously estimated.

    Is bathing bad for our skin? Science is becoming more and more interested on how the presence of bacteria, both good and bad, affects our health. Now, people are beginning to question if their hygiene habits are destroying the good bacteria that protect our skin and consume our natural oils and sweat. As a result, cosmetics companies are leading a movement, urging people to cut back on the hot water and harsh soaps and to instead purchase serums that allow you to re-add microbes that have been washed away. So, should we all be showering less? Some researchers say it depends. According to Tamia Harris-Tryon, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, people should focus on the health of their top layer of skin rather than the microbiome. "If you use harsh soaps and hot water and over-bathe, you’re going to have an impact on your skin barrier," she said. "If the barrier is disrupted, different microbes grow." But while that might mean bathing less for some, especially for people with naturally dry skin, this doesn't mean you should bathe any less than two times per week, according to Harris-Tryon. "It's important to bathe," she said, adding, “For certain, washing your hands is critical. We know that diseases are spread when you don't wash your hands because you carry bacteria from person to person."

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